Located in northern Canada, the Yukon is a wedge of land surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, Alaska, the Northwest Territories and the province of British Columbia. Mention the Yukon and most people think of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, the shimmering phenomenon that lights up the sky. But there are plenty more things to do in Yukon.
There are strange things done beneath the Yukon’s midnight sun – and sometimes in the depths of winter’s darkness. But there are wonderfully sublime moments, too. For starters, get a taste of the weird and the wonderful with these five cool and quirky things to do in Yukon.
Visiting the Yukon is one of things to see in Canada that wildlife lovers will love.
- Quirky Things To Do in Yukon
- Classic Things to do in Yukon
- 6- Go on a road trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City
- 7- Take a flight or road trip to the Arctic Circle
- 8- Visit the Dänoja Zho Cultural Centre
- 9- Visit the Dawson City Visitor Information Centre
- 10- See Jack London’s Cabin
- 11- Hike the Chilkoot trail
- 12- Kluane National Park Hiking
- 13- Place a bet at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Casino
- 14- Fly over the Kaskawulsh Glacier
- 15- Explore Tombstone Territorial Park
- Things To Do in Yukon – Outdoor Activities
- Yukon Calendar Highlights
Quirky Things To Do in Yukon
1- Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
How much of a Klondiker are you?
The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, which runs February 16 -25, 2018, is the kind of event where men are men and women are tough.
Yukoners take pride in the skills needed to perform such muscular tasks as chopping wood and wielding axes and chainsaws.
During the Mad(am) Trapper competition, contestants pit themselves against one another to determine who is the ultimate athlete where it really counts.
See who can walk the furthest with hundreds of pounds of flour on their backs.
Find out who is the most skilled at axe throwing, log splitting, log tossing and chucking a chainsaw.
Scores are tallied in each discipline to determine who is the Mad Trapper (for men) and Madam Trapper (for women).
2- Watson Lake Signpost Forest
Walk through a forest that doesn’t have any trees. Well, not the leafy kind.
A homesick United States Army soldier was helping build the Alaska Highway in 1942 when he installed a sign pointing toward his hometown of Danville, Illinois, and the distance in miles.
Since then, others from around the world have added signs at the spot in Watson Lake to represent their hometowns, including Aachen, Germany.
The Watson Lake Signpost Forest now has more than 65,000 signs. They look as different as the places they name.
Some signs are several metres wide; others are like a wafer-thin street sign.
Walk through this forest, which is several acres, and see if you can spot a sign for your hometown.
3- Dawson City Outhouse Race
So a bunch of outhouses are trotting down the street in Dawson City.
No, it’s not the beginning of a terrible joke. Every Labour Day weekend since 1977, this is exactly what happens during the Great Klondike International Outhouse Race.
Teams of five people dress up in costumes and decorate their outhouses using a bit of toilet humour, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Going by such names as the Elton John, The Royal Flush, The Whizzer of Oz, and The Mad Crapper, four people wheel the outhouse along a three-kilometer course through the town’s streets.
The fifth person must be sitting on the pot as the others race the outhouse down the street.
Runners often take turns on the toilet but don’t worry.
Everyone keeps their pants on for the event.
Crowds line up to cheer on the competing commodes as they use human power to propel themselves to the finish line.
The team that finishes their business the fastest, er, completes the race the quickest, wins.
Prizes are also awarded for the most original outhouse and the best-dressed team.
4- Join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club
Would you like a human toe with your whiskey?
As the story goes, Captain Dick Stevenson was cleaning out an old cabin in 1973 when he found a human toe that had been pickled in a jar of alcohol.
That’s when he founded the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.
If you want to join the group, you must belly up to the bar at Dawson City’s Sourdough Saloon and drink a shot of whiskey that has a shrivelled toe in it.
There’s only one rule: ”You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe.”
A few people have taken this a little too far.
One guy’s tummy touched the toe in 2013 when he swallowed the mummified member.
Now it’s your turn to touch your toe. Mission accomplished, you can swagger out through the saloon’s swinging doors.
And, now for the wonderful…
5- Drive the Dempster Highway
The Tombstone, Ogilvie and Richardson mountains watch over this iconic highway as it travels for 740 km from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. It’s one of the amazing trips to do when driving across Canada.
Along the way, it crosses the Continental Divide, the Mackenzie River and the Yukon-NWT border.
This two-lane gravel road opened in 1979 and was named for Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector William Dempster.
Just after leaving Dawson City, the tundra’s blues and greens dissipate in autumn as the landscape is bathed in golds and vivid oranges and reds.
Stop to hike in spectacular Tombstone Territorial Park just off the highway.
As the road wanders through the Arctic wilderness, keep an eye out for Dall Sheep, mountain goats, moose, caribou, wolves and bears.
Stay overnight at Eagle Plains, the only hotel on this quiet road.
Take a selfie at the Arctic Circle and the territorial border.
Then head to Inuvik.
There aren’t any gas stations, and restaurants are a rarity. But isolation is the very reason people come here.
Seeing the Aurora is an experience for anyone’s bucket list, even though in midwinter the temperatures can fall to minus 40C degrees. Besides the Northern Lights, the Yukon is a fabulous destination for travellers who love nature and history. Here are 10 things to do in the Yukon.
Classic Things to do in Yukon
By Maria Visconti
6- Go on a road trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City
The Yukon is a driver’s paradise with well-kept, nearly empty highways. Hiring a car or RV is an ideal way to see this vast and awesome part of the world.
There are plenty of powered campervan sites as well as facilities, such as toilets and showers, all along the way.
Make sure to include Dawson City and Whitehorse in your itinerary. These two charming cities have a long history dating back to the Gold Rush era.
The North Klondike Highway offers a road trip to remember, whether you’re in a car, on a motorcycle or exploring by caravan.
It has stunning vistas, wildlife viewing opportunities and access to the Dempster Highway and Alaska via the Top of The World Highway.
7- Take a flight or road trip to the Arctic Circle
If you have the time to do it, a road trip to the Arctic Circle is an iconic road trip.
But if you don’t have days to spare, the best way to explore the Yukon’s vastness is by light aircraft.
Tintina Air offers scenic flights and can take you inside the Arctic Circle for a toast to the midnight sun, which occurs at the Summer Solstice.
Above the Arctic Circle, the sun stays in the sky for weeks.
8- Visit the Dänoja Zho Cultural Centre
Dänoja Zho Cultural Centre (Dawson City) is the gateway to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people’s heritage and has exhibits and cultural activities year round.
The impressive modern building is a gathering place for the First Nations of the area.
9- Visit the Dawson City Visitor Information Centre
The centre has authentic reels filmed during the gold rush showing continuously.
It’s a must see, with compelling footage that emphasies the real life hardships of the pioneers with incredible authenticity.
Entry to the Dawson City Information Centre is free.
This is where you can join a historic walking tour of Dawson City.
The tours are entertaining and informative.
They are run by skilled guides and actors dressed in period costume.
10- See Jack London’s Cabin
The cabin has daily tours and presentations related to the great American writer (1876-1916) who immortalized the Yukon in his novels Call of the Wild and White Fang.
Don’t forget to get your copy of the short stories.
The books will put into context everything you are experiencing in the Yukon.
11- Hike the Chilkoot trail
Hike the Chilkoot trail, a 53km trail from Alaska to British Columbia, a major access route to the Yukon goldfields in the 1890s.
The Trail follows the path that was used by the Tlingit First Nation traders and Klondike Gold Rush stampeders from the late 1800s.
It starts in Dyea, Alaska and ends at Bennett Lake. Hiking permits are required and reservations are recommended.
You don’t have to hike the entire trail. You can take the White Pass & Yukon Route train from Skagway, Alaska, or Carcross, Yukon, to the Bennett trailhead for a day trip or camp overnight.
12- Kluane National Park Hiking
Hike Kluane National Park to explore beautiful lakes like Lake Kathleen.
Lake Kluane lies within the traditional territory of the Champagne & Aishihik and Kluane First Nations.
The Da Ku Cultural Centre has cultural exhibits and a register for hikes and backcountry travel.
The visitor centre operates between May and September.
13- Place a bet at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Casino
Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Casino, is the oldest gaming hall in Canada and has three shows daily including their famous Can Can dancing girls.
Shows are nightly from May to September.
These shows are as authentic as they get in the original setting.
Today’s dancing girls have careers of their own outside show times: some are the town’s accountants, engineers and teachers.
14- Fly over the Kaskawulsh Glacier
Fly over the Kaskawulsh Glacier in Kluane National Park.
As the saying goes, a flight is worth a thousand words.
You can also explore the glacier area from the river or on land.
15- Explore Tombstone Territorial Park
Tombstone Territorial Park has awesome black granite peaks and beautiful lakes.
The Dempster Highway bisects the park and allows you to see the fabled abode of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, who have hunted, camped and traded here for centuries.
A joy flight over it is an awesome experience.
You can also trek here but this is a remote park with few established trails.
Even for day hikes, prepare for rough terrain and drastic weather changes.
Things To Do in Yukon – Outdoor Activities
By Kate Armstrong
The Yukon is the all-weather Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. The region’s vast wilderness areas, long rivers and massive snow falls provide the perfect all-year outdoor playground.
In one day alone, you can tackle backcountry slopes on skis, bike of the world’s best trails, or meditate on the water with a fishing rod.
There are few limits in this stunning region (okay, other than wrestling grizzly bears, which we strongly advise against). Here are my top 10 outdoor activities to enjoy in the Yukon.
16- Dog sledding, mushing and skijoring
Winter is the time for dog mushing, that is, when half a dozen or so husky dogs pull you and your sled along the snow.
It’s an adrenaline-pumping pursuit of a different kind (check out the Yukon Quest to see how the professionals do it!).
You can get your ‘sled legs’ on half-day outings or head out on multi-day wilderness adventures (with snow camping).
An alternative is skijoring, where skiers are pulled along by dogs.
Half the fun of these trips is bonding with your furry companions.
While the region is known for its salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic grayling, schools of other varieties also swim in waters here – the region’s multiple rivers and lakes and secluded (shh, secret) water holes.
Fly-in charters hook in the passionate anglers for their full on fishing and lodge experiences.
The only drive-in fishing lodge in the area – it’s located on the beautiful Dezadeash Lake, Kluane National Park — is Dalton Trail Lodge.
Winter ice-fishing might give anglers an alternative ‘one that got away’ tale, too.
Pebble Beach and Royal St Andrews, have we got news for you.
The Yukon golf courses are as pretty and unique as your tricky links fairways.
On summer solstice, June 21, there’s a ‘midnight’ golf tournament.
The Yukon’s golf courses vary from the par–9 Meadow Lakes Golf & Country Club whose rustic log clubhouse is a charming feature, to first-class velvety fairways of the 18-hole (72-par) course of Mountain View Golf Club.
19- Rafting and kayaking
True to their hard-core, adrenaline-seeking selves, Yukonites are obsessed with water activities.
Rafting is a great way to pass by the scenery – think glaciers and bald-headed eagles on branches above and caribou crossing the river.
Tatshenshini Expeditions offers fun one-day whitewater rafting trips on Tatshenshini River, a beautiful waterway that carves its way through the Elias Mountain range.
For those after a more do-it-yourself, meditative journey, rent a canoe or kayak from Kanoe People in Whitehorse. DIY or guided trips head off down the Yukon River.
20- Wildlife viewing
All three North American bears – black, grizzly and polar – hang around The Yukon.
But animal life extends way beyond these; the region is like a zoo of A-Z alphabet animals.
Think Arctic Ground Squirrel (gophers), beaver, caribou, coyote, crossbills. Then there’s deer, elk and falcons.
Be sure to pick up the Yukon Wildlife Viewing Guide Keep your eye out… and your car window closed.
If there’s ever a place to ‘take time to sniff the roses’, it’s here in the wildflower-strewn Yukon, where hundreds of plant and flower varieties grow.
During the Ice Age, much of ancient Beringia (incorporating modern-day Yukon) was unglaciated, so five unique plant species grow here (that’s right, found nowhere else on earth!), including Yukon Draba, a small white flower, and Yukon Goldenweed.
In July, the southern Yukon is a carpet of fireweed, Yukon’s official flower (check the area you’ll be in as flowers bloom at different times).
Other flowers include white cow parsnip, yellow pasture sage and dandelion and white Labrador tea.
22- Mountain biking
The secret is out about the Yukon’s epic single track.
Keen mountain biking residents of Whitehorse and Carcross have joined their towns via former mining tracks, walking trails and animal routes to create 500 miles of scenic trails and one of Canada’s best single-tracks.
Think switchbacks, bridges and ramps on all terrains: rocky high-altitude paths, alpine meadows and mountain ridges.
You can go it alone or head off with an operator.
Boreale Mountain Biking runs everything from half-day trips to multi-day epics, including the four-day Summer Solstice (with gourmet cuisine and a luxury lodge accommodation).
23- Aurora Borealis
Three words: Magical. Northern. Lights. Locals call it, ‘the best show on Earth’ and indeed, the aurora spectacle here is as good as Scandinavia.
The Aurora Borealis – ethereal wisps of neon green lights – is a magnet for photographers, romantic legend seekers and scientists (the latter who would explain the phenomenon as when those particles of solar dust that forms rings around the polar regions are charged by gases, the molecules of which glow like neon lights).
The delightful Inn on the Lake is the perfect spot to stay – you can have a personal light viewing from the terrace.
24- Back-country skiing
Snow can literally dump in the Yukon during their loooong winters.
While downhill skiers can careen down the region’s ski-lift pistes, Mount Sima and Mount Maichen, Nordic skiers have the Yukon world at their ‘ski tips’ – alpine touring here is among the best in the world.
For those who prefer their feet to stomp, not slide, join the locals on a snowshoeing expedition and walk and run your way through the surrounding snowscapes.
Visiting in winter? Zip across one of the frozen lakes and enjoy an adrenalin rush as the wind hits your face.
26- Attend the Yukon River Quest
Most people have heard about the Yukon Northern Lights but few would know that the world’s longest canoe race chases midnight sun in the Yukon Territory.
Attending this race is one of the fun things to do in the Yukon in summer.
Paddlers from all over the world arrive in the Yukon to take part in the Yukon River Quest each June. It’s known as the ‘race to the midnight sun’.
Each year, competitors from several countries race the gruelling 715km (by river) from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Canada’s north-western Yukon Territory, with just 55 hours to complete the task.
It’s one of the most arduous marathon events on Earth.
The Yukon River Quest is the longest race of its kind, with just two mandatory rest stops along the way, and a sun that never sets.
This is due to Yukon’s position 60 degrees north of the Earth’s equator.
Competitors range from larger groups in voyageur canoes, to lone kayakers, each one prepared to paddle the river day and night.
The teams vie for a share in a race purse worth approximately $21,500 (CAD) and the personal satisfaction of a much-coveted YRQ Finisher Pin.
The Yukon River Quest is supported by more than 200 volunteers and is recognised as a premier paddling race throughout the paddling world.
Along the way, participants are treated to the magnificent scenery and unspoiled nature along the historic Yukon River, one of North America’s longest, and the primary transportation route during the development of the Yukon.
Today, the Yukon River is a popular route for paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts, whether racing to the finish or enjoying its stunning wilderness at a more relaxed pace.
Hundreds of spectators will line the river banks to watch the colourful boats set off and to support the competitors throughout the day and night.
Yukon Calendar Highlights
- February – Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race
- March – Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race
- April – Celebration of Swans
- May – International Gold Show
- June – Yukon River Quest Canoe and Kayak Race
- July – Canada Day (Yukon Gold Panning Championships)
- August – Riverside Arts Festival
- September – White Ram Poker Tournaments